Category Archives: Big Ideas Summit

Editor’s Choice: 5 Big Ideas to energise your day

On April 21st, 50 of the world’s most influential procurement minds joined forces with over 14,000 digital delegates to crowdsource Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Big Ideas

By popular demand, we’ve brought together five thought-provoking Big Ideas from some of the biggest names in procurement.

Big Idea – Millennial Talent Response


Nic Walden, Director – Procurement P2P Advisor at The Hackett Group, talks about the greater expectations that Millennials have for job roles.

From expectations about working on CSR projects and building sustainable relationships, to the technology that they will be working with, Nic argues that procurement needs to change the way they engage with the Millennial generation in the workplace.

Big Idea – Maximise Social Impact


Hugh Chamberlain, Commercial Procurement Lead at Johnson & Johnson, challenged procurement professionals to buy from social enterprises in his Big Idea.

Buying from these enterprises can help add value to society, the community and the planet, as well as giving buyers immense personal satisfaction.

Big Idea – Everyone Can Contribute


Nathan Ott, CEO e.g.1 Ltd and Director at The GC Index Ltd, argues that while not everyone is a ‘Game Changer’, everyone is capable of making a game-changing contribution, from the top to the bottom of the organisation.

However, in order to do this, organisations need to create a culture where it is safe to fail, and these ‘Game Changers’ are not seen as disruptive, pigeon-holed, or made to conform. Only by doing this can organisations create real step change.

Big Idea – Harness the Crowd


Lisa Malone, GM – Europe at Procurious, talks about how procurement can lead organisations in harnessing the power of the crowd, and the concept of ‘hackathons’ in order to drive innovation.

Hackathons provide an opportunity to work on the business, rather that in the business. They give employees the chance to take time out and come up with new ideas, and communicate and collaborate with people they would not have the opportunity to do so with otherwise.

Big Idea – Challenging Traditional Procurement


Lee Gudgeon, Client Engagement Director at REED Global, says that the increasing role of procurement has highlighted a shortage of candidates with the right skill sets available to come into the profession.

Lee argues that procurement recruiters also need to be up-skilled in order to recognise the relevant skills and capabilities required in procurement, in other functions, and open up the market to people who might otherwise have been overlooked.

Want to see more Big Ideas? Check out our extensive library containing two years’ of Big Ideas from some of the world’s leading thinkers in procurement.

Innovating the Last Mile of the Supply Chain

From Amazon delivering your groceries, to a host of companies delivering your dinner, the competition for the last mile of the supply chain is heating up.

Last Mile Supply Chain

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016 last week, there were a whole host of discussions around the future of the supply chain. Paul Markillie discussed the future trends in manufacturing (and you can watch Paul’s Big Idea video too), while Lucy Siegle discussed the increasing need for transparency and ethics in the supply chain.

Ahead of the Summit, we also asked the Procurious community about their Big Ideas for the future of the supply chain, and logistics, industries.

David Weaver, Online Marketing Manager, INFORM GmbH

Big Ideas Supply Chain - David WeaverIt truly is an exciting time to be involved in the supply chain industry. Over the course of 2016, technological advancements in the field of robotics will continue to reshape manufacturing and warehouse facilities.

Based on what I saw at some of the events I attended in 2015, I believe picking bots in large warehouses will become a reality, sooner rather than later. Additionally, the migration of supply chain planning into the Cloud will continue to expand and the implementation of advanced analytics to successfully plan across all supply chain functions will experience an upward trend.

Furthermore, companies will have to get creative with their methods for increasing transparency across their value network. However, in order for companies to be successful, the 4 important T’s of transparency must be fulfilled:

  • The topic must have traction within the organisation,
  • Internal and external trust must be established,
  • Appropriate supplier training programs should be in place, and
  • Today’s available technology needs to be implemented.

Next to all of these leading topics, I expect some of the biggest ideas to be aimed at solving the “last mile” logistics problem. Over the last few years we have seen several last mile logistics providers introduce their innovative approaches to solving the problem (Doorman, Roadie, Deliveroo, etc.).

I expect the fight for control of this market to continue, and as a result of the high level of competition, we will continue to see new, innovative problem-solving methods. 

Even although the event itself is over, there’s still time for you to get involved with the Big Ideas Summit 2016. Visit theBig Ideas Summit website, join our Procurious Group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing exclusive and unique thought leadership, Big Ideas, and discussion that will shape the future of procurement. Don’t miss out – get involved, register today.

For Spend Management Success, Don’t Say the P Words!

Thinking differently about procurement starts with talking differently. If growth companies want to succeed then they need to change their vocabulary, starting by introducing the term ‘Spend Management’.

Spend Management Success

Read Tyler’s thoughts on when to buy your first ERP system here.

When should a growing company start building its procurement infrastructure? When you reach about 100 employees, or when you buy your first ERP system, whichever comes first. Not many companies have the foresight to do this. The common wisdom is that you bring in procurement at about 700-900 people. That’s too late.

In my experience one thing that keeps companies from starting as early as they should are the “P” words: Procurement; Purchasing; Process; Policy. Not only do these words define the function too narrowly, they’ve also become synonyms for bureaucracy and red tape.

People at small, entrepreneurial companies recoil when they hear these words. We need to rethink how procurement is positioned so companies can embrace it early on, and in a positive spirit, well before chaos ensues. That starts with changing the way we talk about it.

Call it Spend Management

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in procurement and I love the field. But this vocabulary is not just off putting, it’s inadequate for what the profession does today. The classical understanding of procurement is contract negotiations – leveraging a company’s size and buying power to get discounts and save money.

That’s not a bad thing to be known for, but it’s understandable why somebody with that classical understanding working at company of a couple hundred people would say, “We don’t need procurement yet.” They can’t yet buy on a massive scale, and at that stage revenue is far more important than savings.

What people outside the profession don’t realise is the extent to which the function has been growing in responsibility and strategic importance over the past few decades. However, we still haven’t communicated clearly about the nature of the role, its importance and how it fits in the organisation.

Procurement should really be joined at the hip with finance, but ask five different finance professionals what encompasses procurement, and you’ll get five different answers. If our closest ally in the organisation doesn’t fully understand the role, we clearly need to do a better job communicating what it is we do.

Procurement today should ideally encompass five or six functions: strategic sourcing, contract negotiation and management, workflows for buying, supplier information management, and the handoff to accounts payable and the ERP system. Continuing to call all of that procurement really doesn’t do it justice. Spend Management is a much better term. 

Think More Broadly

It’s not the sexiest term, but it does imply a broader function that’s squarely aligned with finance. Even employees at a small company will recognise the need to manage spending. Maybe if it’s presented that way, we can start sooner, and with greater focus and intention.

A small company may not be ready to negotiate big contracts, but they do need to buy things and pay bills, so they set up an AP department and processes for paying people. Whether they realise it or not, they’re already laying down the foundation for their Spend Management infrastructure.

At about 100 people, someone needs to start planning how that’s going to scale and start laying the groundwork. If you walk in at 100 people and start using the ‘p’ words, it would actually create a barrier to starting. But if you wait much longer than that, the first job is to jump in and stop a fast moving train.  When that’s a company’s first introduction to procurement, it only serves to reinforce any negative impressions they may already have.

Don’t Wait to Build

Once those impressions get culturally ingrained, it’s an uphill battle to change that perception. Yet that’s what happens all the time. The vocabulary and, by extension, the whole profession has become synonymous with bureaucracy, and no small company wants anything to do with bureaucracy.

This is holding companies back from proactively building out spend management as part of an efficient, effective corporate finance infrastructure. You’re going to build infrastructure around marketing, sales and delivering your product or service.

There’s a one hundred percent chance you’ll also need to build infrastructure to support spending money as the company as it grows. Yet most companies wait until things are really broken and people are complaining, and then the whole thing is really painful. If you start early you have a chance to set up a system that works smoothly from the get go.

Be the Change

Change has to start with those of us in the profession. We can talk more broadly about what we do. We can talk about ‘buying guidelines’ instead of ‘purchasing policies’ and ‘simple steps to getting what you need to do your job’ instead of talking about the ‘procurement process.’ Neutralising these defensive barriers helps people realise, “Oh, okay, these are ways that I can get what I need to do my job in an easier way.”

Small companies may not be ready for concepts like category management and contract negotiations, but they need help buying things, designing workflows and finding automated tools. They may be able to do some simple sourcing for volume discounts, and there are usually all sorts of unmet needs. It’s at that point you need to bring someone in to address them with an eye to the bigger picture of building a scalable spend management program that’s integrated into the corporate finance system.

There are lots of ways to approach it, and lots of conversations we could be having, if we don’t let the ‘P’ words get in the way.

Coupa are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, to be held in London on April 21st. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Procurement Recruitment – Find the Needle in the Haystack

According to the experts, procurement recruitment can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack. But what are the trends in this area in the coming years?

Procurement Recruitment

One of the key topics at the Big Ideas Summit 2016 was people, and more specifically, how to attract and retain the best talent in procurement. Our experts and influencers discussed a number of ideas and concepts procurement could consider. You can read all about them here.

However, we also wanted to hear what the Procurious community thought were the Big Ideas in procurement recruitment, now and in the coming years. Here is what they had to say.

Tony Megally, General Manager, The Source Recruitment

Big Ideas - Tony MegallySpecialist roles – Procurement needs to consider promoting the profession as an exciting career path to non-procurement professionals already in relevant commercially focussed roles. For example, finance and legal (great for contract management), and possibly agency recruiters specialising in procurement.  

Commercially focussed accountants are highly numerate, analytical and offer great business partnering skills, and, in some cases, they are supporting sales teams with commercial analysis of bids and tenders. In house legal advisors are often partnering with Procurement overseeing contract terms, and could transition well to contract management roles.

Procurement recruitment consultants are generally great at negotiating, building relationships, are equipped with sound knowledge of the profession, and maintain strong soft skills all round. (I’ve know of a couple of recruiters who have made a career change to Procurement!).

The challenge will be getting CPOs and Procurement Heads to think outside the norm of recruiting just from our profession. Non-procurement pros are not typically thinking about procurement as a career change. But if we promote it on both sides this could change!

Senior and Exec Leadership Roles – Procurement should be recruiting for senior and executive leadership capability, rather than technical expertise. We have a great recent example in Australia, where Qantas has appointed a new CPO, Lisa Brock.

Lisa previously occupied executive roles with Jetstar as Chief Commercial Officer, and previously with Qantas in Strategy and Corporate Development, and she has a background in Corporate Finance at Ernst and Young.

She knows the business, is highly people focussed, is a great change agent, is financially literate and has built strong relationships across the organisation at a senior level. Perhaps this is easier to achieve with internal leaders with a proven track record of leading cross functional teams.  

Succession Planning – Succession planning is crucial for future leadership capability. There is a lot of material out there on this topic but it is relevant. The point to be made is around the changing demographics of the workforce, and the fact that Millennials now make up a significant number of the workforce. They generally want faster career progression  and development opportunities.

If we want to retain outstanding talent then it’s necessary for CPOs to actively identify a strong bench of potential leaders, and to actively provide opportunities that will enable a future leadership development path to those who are capable of attaining it.

Anna del Mar, Head of Learning & Development, Future Purchasing

Big Ideas - Anna del MarWith enormous pressure on businesses to streamline their operations and find ways of driving performance in increasingly competitive environments, the need to improve capability and maximise returns from L&D investment is critical.

A leading private equity firm confirmed to us that more than 75 per cent of value creation in their portfolio of companies comes from operational performance improvement.

Procurement has a large contribution to make to any performance improvement programme and increasing capability is often a critical step achieving this.

The procurement recruitment market remains increasingly challenging, and finding people with both the technical and change management skills to create performance improvement is often likened to ‘finding a needle in a haystack’. Future Purchasing is not a recruitment agency and as such we cannot comment on the state of the recruitment market. We can however, observe the methods our clients are deploying to get the best talent.

We have seen three interesting trends:

1. We are seeing some organisations recruit from other functions, and train individuals in Procurement approaches. The behavioural skills required to drive change and implement real category management are so important and less easy to learn than procurement process skills. Whilst that can work in some cases, in practice the value of real experience in commercial scenarios cannot be underestimated.

2. Finding people who will drive real change can be made much easier by using Network Analysis. This approach lets recruiters assess the level of connectivity and impact people have across the networks in which they work. Those people who are well networked, are often well suited to change management roles, as it is their natural tendency to drive change.

3. Thirdly we see procurement organisations recruiting excellent skills from other markets, in particular central Europe. One leading CPO who has outsourced transactional activities to Poland sees this location as a real talent pool for the rest of the global team.

Food for thought!

Tell us what you think about the future of procurement recruitment on Procurious. Even although the event itself is over, there’s still time for you to get involved with the Big Ideas Summit 2016. Visit theBig Ideas Summit website, join our Procurious Group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing exclusive and unique thought leadership, Big Ideas, and discussion that will shape the future of procurement. Don’t miss out – get involved, register today.

Procurement Gives a Tweet – #BigIdeas2016 on Twitter

Likes, retweets and the #BigIdeas2016 hashtag being spread far and wide – taking a look at how the Twitter-verse reacted to Big Ideas 2016.

Twitter on #BigIdeas2016

Whether you chose to follow the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on Procurious, or via one of our other social media channels, we hope you got just as much out of the day as we did in London.

The Big Ideas Summit was positioned as a digitally-led event, enabling us to include the global procurement and supply chain community in the day, even although we couldn’t have everyone in London (as much as we wish we could!).

Following the huge success of the event on Twitter last year, we were eager to find out just how far our conversations, learnings, interactions and Ideas reached. And we couldn’t have predicted just how widespread the Big Ideas conversation went.

Once again, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from our followers. So, thank you, and here are some figures showing just how much you helped us spread the word:

Hashtag: Our #BigIdeas2016 hashtag was picked-up and mentioned 1,500 times throughout the day.

In total, tweets relating to the event were served to a potential combined audience of over 5 million people worldwide!

This map shows where the #BigIdeas2016 hashtag was being used worldwide:

This map shows the global activity on April 21 of #BigIdeas2016
This map shows the global activity on April 21 of #BigIdeas2016

If you’re not following us already, come and find us using @procurious_ and help to continue the conversation! We’ll be continuing to share your Big Ideas, and all the key thoughts and ideas from the Summit in the coming weeks.

We’ve also put together a sample of the tweets from April 21st which mentioned the Big Ideas Summit, and used the #BigIdeas2016 hashtag. See what influencers, thought-leaders, commentators, and fellow procurement professionals made of the day’s events.

Procurement Needs More Positivity in an Online World

In our online world, where knowledge and information is at the touch of a button, it pays to share. And it’s time for procurement to share in order to demonstrate the value it brings to the organisation.

Share Share Share

Sometimes the biggest and best ideas are the simplest ones. Whether it’s a new way of looking at an old problem, or just showing others how to take the first of many steps, the simplest ideas often have the power to cut through the noise and change the way people think.

This is my big, simple idea: the procurement profession needs to share.

Have you ever looked into how Google works? The search engine performs approximately 100 billion searches per month through over 60 trillion individual pages. Google navigates the web by ‘crawling’, or following links from page to page, sorting the pages and keeping track of it all in the 100-million-gigabyte ‘index’. As you search, algorithms work in the background to understand what you want and pull relevant documents from the index.

Results are then ranked using over 200 factors, including site quality, spam removal, freshness and user context – all in 1/8th of a second. Google is becoming incredibly sophisticated, taking keywords into account as part of a wider interpretation of the data on your website, to form its own conclusion about what your site actually delivers.

Language Matters

I found this out, predictably, through a Google search. My point is that as the amount of web content and chatter about procurement grows exponentially all over the world, we need to keep in mind that the language we use matters.

The profession has to optimise the picture that is being painted about procurement because the more positive words and imagery that are put out there, the more we will be discovered and our value understood.

The good news is that influential advocates for the profession are doing exactly that – in the past 48 hours we’ve had positive keywords and phrases used to describe procurement (here on Procurious and elsewhere) including:

  • Avenger
  • Rock-star
  • Thinking the unthinkable
  • Millennial-led disruption
  • Leadership in the digital age
  • Unleash the superhero
  • Procurement evolution
  • Changing the business model
  • Collaborating to inspire

Think about what would mean when a newly-minted CEO, who wants to understand what we do, takes the time to Google ‘Procurement’ and sees overwhelmingly positive language like this in their search results. That CEO can’t help but be inspired and energised by the hype and positivity around procurement.

Forget re-branding – focus on reinforcing the value of procurement

There’s been some discussion recently about re-branding procurement, abandoning the title of CPO and adopting language such as ‘Commercial Operations Director’, or even ‘Chief Relationship Officer’. Further down the chain, only one-third of 99 different job titles used by procurement professionals include the term “procurement”.

In my opinion, re-branding procurement is a distraction, especially since we’ve made enormous progress in educating businesses about what procurement does. Rather than having to re-educate the C-Suite about what a Commercial Director or Chief Relationship Officer does, that energy could be better spent actually showing people what we have and can achieve.

In line with why we created Procurious to begin with, we know that the procurement and supply chain profession has struggled to overcome outdated stereotypes, so it’s time we join forces to become collectively valued. By empowering future procurement leaders, we can change the face of the profession from the inside out, rather than worrying about the label itself.

Share, share, SHARE!

Procurious Founder Tania Seary shares her Big Idea for 2016

Modern wisdom has it that if you don’t exist on Google, you don’t exist at all. If we can’t collectively raise our voice and optimise procurement through positivity, then there is a real danger that the CPO role will become increasingly irrelevant and, eventually, forgotten.

So, how do we go about it? Through constant positive reinforcement. The more positive stories, photographs and other uplifting imagery out there, the more it will help us. Specifically, you can:

  • Share your social media profile, your business photo and broadcast your everyday successes.
  • Ask questions and share what you don’t know – without sharing the things we’re concerned about, there can be no action built and no moving forward.
  • Give knowledge back to enrich the wider community – everyone has something valuable to share.
  • Share your vision for the profession, and most importantly, your big ideas.

Let’s stick with the label we’ve got and continue to build upon it, because the momentum is with us as a profession. Remember, the more we flex our collective muscle, the stronger we become. My call to action to all you avengers, rock-stars and superheroes out there is to get behind one word – and that word is “procurement”.

Even although the event itself is over, there’s still time for you to get involved with the Big Ideas Summit 2016. Visit the Big Ideas Summit website, join our Procurious Group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing exclusive and unique thought leadership, Big Ideas, and discussion that will shape the future of procurement. Don’t miss out – get involved, register today.

Disruptors & Cul-de-Sacs: Recapping Big Ideas 2016

Did you fall asleep or oversleep? Get caught in a meeting? Or did you just forget it was on (we hope not!)? To help you catch up, we’re recapping Big Ideas 2016 – and what a day it was!

Many Meetings - Recapping Big Ideas 2016

The team at Procurious HQ would just like to say a quick thanks to everyone who took part in the Big Ideas Summit 2016, both in London, and around the world. We were blown away by the conversation, discussion and interaction last week’s Summit, and are looking forward to sharing even more with you in the coming weeks.

Where were you last Thursday? Did you join in with the discussions and conversation online? While we prepare all our influencers’ videos and content to share soon, we’ve pulled out some of the key moments and are recapping Big Ideas 2016 just for you.

We got started early, setting the scene and introducing our early arrivals to our digital delegates and social media audience.

To provide the context for all our conversations over the course of the day, Barry Ward, Senior Procurement Brand Manager at IBM, spoke about external change, market disruptions and the three key calls to action that CPOs must take notice of.

Barry W - BIS Keynote

Nik Gowing then scared the life out of us talking about the cataclysmic potential of Unthinkable Events.

Having talked about the findings of his excellent ‘Thinking the Unthinkable‘ study, our delegates were invited to think about their unthinkables, and share them with the rest of the room.

Nik G - BIS Keynote

As everyone settled back down again after our morning interlude, Paul Markillie opened our eyes to the potential of the disruptive mega-trends that will change the way supply chains are designed and operated.

Paul talked about new materials being used in the manufacturing process, how BMW are leading the way in this field with their manufacturing process for the i3 model, and how 3D Printing is finally coming of age.

The audience were then treated to an insight of a revolution currently taking social media by storm. Elizabeth Linder used her wealth of experience to build on the concept of the Conversational Century.

Needless to say, it got people thinking, and more than a couple of senior procurement leaders in the room considering how their teams could be leveraging social media more effectively.

Elizabeth L - BIS Keynote

Probably the keynote with the most profound human and empathetic impact of the day came from Lucy Siegle. Lucy pricked our social consciences while discussing the impact that supply chains, particularly those in the fashion industry, were having on a global population.

From consumer behaviour, to the forgotten people in supply chains, Lucy got us all considering what we individually and collectively could do to make a real difference in the world.

Sustainability Panel

Lucy was joined on stage by Peter Holbrook, CEO at Social Enterprise UK, and Timo Worrall, of J&J, to discuss social and sustainable procurement.

It was a fascinating discussion and generated some great takeaways for our procurement leaders. Take a look here at some of the topics our experts discussed.

Gabe P - BIS Keynote

Fancy yourself as a Chief Spend Officer? If Gabe Perez and Coupa have their way, then procurement’s remit could expand to include all organisational spend. Here are a few top insights from his session.

Online collaboration is something all the members of our next panel know about in great detail. Martin Chilcott, founder of 2degrees, Chris Hancock, founder of Source2Fund, and our very own Procurious GM, Lisa Malone, discussed the power of online collaboration in procurement.

Read our thoughts on it here.

Next up, procurement heavyweight and ISM CEO, Tom Derry. Tom talked about how ISM are helping procurement professionals equip themselves for the future by ensuring that they have the right skills. The ISM Mastery Model has already helped train over 60,000 procurement professionals, and it certainly felt like there were a few more converts in the audience!

Tom Derry - BIS Keynote

Tom was then joined by two heavy hitters in the UK CPO recruitment space in Lucy Harding and Lee Gudgeon to discuss what skills procurement leaders need to succeed in the future.

Lucy urged the delegates to help “challenge the notion that procurement is a career cul-de-sac“, and showcasing all the best aspects of working in procurement.

Big Data, predictive analytics and forecasting will enable procurement to be more agile in a volatile environment. This was the view of Chris Sawchuk, the Hackett Group, during the final keynote of the day.

Finally, we asked some senior procurement leaders to tell us what they thought procurement’s blind spots were, and how they should be dealing with them.

There were some great, tough questions from the audience, and from our social media audience, producing some great insights for our delegates to take away.

Continuing Online

The day itself may now be over, but the debate and discussions are still being amplified online. You can see all our content from the day on the Big Ideas Summit website, plus check out all the conversation from the day on Twitter too.

You can find all our Periscope recordings of the keynotes and panels in the Big Ideas 2016 Group, as well as accessing our Digital Goodie Bag, which all our sponsors have contributed to.

Plus we’ve just started to release our first few videos from the event, in which our thought leaders shared their own Big Ideas. You can find them in the Learning hub on Procurious.

And if that’s not enough reading material for you, here’s a handy list of related stories you might have missed on Big Ideas 2016:

Why Procurement Agility is Key to Avoiding Obsolescence

Organisations that don’t increase their procurement agility and harness the power of new technologies face obsolescence in the next few years.

Chris Sawchuk - Agility

Chris Sawchuk, fresh from Hackett’s own Best Practice Conference, took a look at what agility means, and why procurement needs to be more agile.

The Hackett Group believes agility is the defining trait of the procurement team of today and the future. More agile functions will be better positioned to respond to complex business problems, and adapt to the fast-changing business environment in which procurement exists.

As easy as it might be to talk about being more agile, putting it into practice requires leveraging of new tools and technologies, as well as ensuring that the procurement teams have the skills they require to carry out these strategies.

Growing Business Uncertainty

In 2016, companies are expecting to see business uncertainly and risk increase, along with greater struggles to grow revenue. So the pressure to reduce costs is increasing. At the same time, procurement leaders need to balance this with other, more strategic, priorities, like becoming a better strategic business partner.

Chris discussed how a confluence of high volatility, technology-led innovation, and hyper-competitive market conditions, has accelerated the rate of change in business to unprecedented levels. Agility is the key to success in this environment.

However, for many companies, agility just hasn’t been a priority in the past. Chris made the point that because agility isn’t an area that many CPOs focus on, procurement’s maturity in the area is only low to medium, leaving the procurement teams a step behind the rest of the organisation.

It’s not about a lack of understanding. Organisations are certainly talking about agility, but procurement either isn’t aligned with this strategy, or there’s a delay in alignment. People need to have the right mindset, and up until now, procurement hasn’t had this. And as we’ve said, a more uncertain environment means that procurement needs to be more agile. It’s time for procurement to catch up.

Role of Technology

Chris went on to talk about the concepts surrounding procurement agility. These functions have strategies in place to take advantage of technologies like the Cloud, and the Internet of Things, and are using other technology, like bots, to push their organisation on.

Procurement leaders are realising that higher-quality information can help them drive greater business value. Big data has been a game changer when it comes to customer analytics, offering an unprecedented ability to quickly model massive volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources. But procurement’s lack of maturity in market intelligence is a significant obstacle that must be overcome.

Becoming information-driven should be a primary focus area for procurement. The function must develop the tools and skills that will allow staff to apply market data and intelligence to decisions on spending and sourcing strategies. Creating deep, consultative working relationships with business leaders, demands that procurement bring this valuable expertise to the table.

Chris ended by outlining a path for procurement leaders to take in order to understand their department’s level of agility, and how to increase this agility in the future:

  1. Apply the agility test to your own service delivery model – determine where the gaps are and how it needs to change to support procurement’s evolving role.
  2. Take an honest inventory of procurement’s identity and culture – Is it an optimiser or an innovator? Is it operating seamlessly across cultural and geographical boundaries? Refresh recruiting, hiring and training with the idea that chaos is the new normal.
  3. Even for non-regulated businesses, risk forecasting and planning is a hallmark of agility – Evaluate your current risk management program not only for depth but speed and agility. Benchmark cycle times to strike the right balance.
  4. Invest in predictive capabilities, pilot emerging technology – Work towards expanding single function supplier networks into interconnected business communities.
  5. Consider outsourcing providers to help manage tail spend – Model the ROI on efficiency gains and compliance versus savings.

The message was clear – it’s critical for procurement to become more agile to avoid potential obsolescence in organisations. As Chris concluded, it’s not the strongest that survive, it’s not the fittest, but the most agile and adaptable.

Collectively Addressing Procurement’s Blind Spots

Education, brand and taking calculated risks – our executive-led panel rounded the Big Ideas Summit off by discussing procurement’s blind spots.

Procurement's Blind Spots

What a way to finish the day. The aim behind the Big Ideas Summit was to challenge our delegates, and create tangible outcomes for them to take back to their organisations. Our senior panel did just that with their discussion on procurement’s blind spots.

Ambition, Strategy and Delivering Value

Mark Roberts, Global Procurement Capabilities Director at AB InBev, started by stating that unless procurement has the vision and ambition, the boundaries that are imposed on it will be out of its hands. Procurement needs to be more than it is today – at AB InBev procurement is starting to consider socially responsible actions of their $25 billion spend.

Dapo Ajayi, CPO at AstraZeneca, argued that procurement truly does have the ability to influence across the enterprise. In the pharmaceutical industry for example, procurement can assist with the speed of clinical studies. The profession’s remit is much broader than just about saving money, it has got to get into conversations about procurement’s strategic role in the organisation.

Chris Browne, CPO at The World Bank, talked about his organisation’s work with world’s poorest countries. The goal of the World Bank is to end extreme poverty, but working in some of the most fragile countries in the world. Currently, the biggest procurement spend is on a $8 billion project to build a solar plant in Morocco.

Chris also talked about his experience working on the government procurement reform in New Zealand, and then subsequently at the NZ Earthquake Commission following 2 devastating earthquakes in Christchurch. The EQC sprang into action following the earthquakes, stopped procurement regulations so people could do what they needed to do, and worked solely on the basis of delivering value and a service to the people on the ground. A very different way to procure, but just highlighting what’s possible.

  • What was your ‘ah ha’ moment from the day?

Dapo – Dapo said that the conversation around transparency has got her thinking about what else AZ could be doing in this area.

Mark – Mark also highlighted transparency. In the era of Wikileaks, people are just as interested in who are the greenest CPOs/CEOs. The other positive for Mark was in the use of the word ‘skunkworks’. The idea that procurement doesn’t need to look for empowerment to chase innovation, but just going and doing it.

Chris – Chris said that corruption is the single biggest issue facing procurement around the world. Linking back to IBM’s opening keynote, Chris highlighted the use cognitive technologies to look at the issue of beneficial ownership – who ultimately is benefitting from contracts being placed around the world.

For Chris, there was also the realisation that we are facing a new norm, in both procurement and society as a whole. Some of the things procurement professionals have taken for granted for past 20 years are likely to be eroded in next few years due to the advancements in technology.

  • What are procurement’s blind spots?

Dapo – Dapo put this question out to her global procurement colleagues at AZ. She argued that maybe we are all playing it safe, that procurement professionals are stuck in our box, with too much focus on savings. The blind spot for procurement was in seeing that a change of mindset was needed in order to make procurement more comfortable about dealing with the wider business.

Mark – For Mark, the blind spot came back to the issue of talent. The profession has used the ‘traditional’ sources, but we need to go beyond that. The other blind spot for Mark was whether or not procurement had enough ambition. Professionals need to be looking at the wider ‘why’ picture, and why what they are doing will benefit the wider business.

Chris – For Chris, the blind spot was how procurement are dealing with organisational lawyers. At the World bank, the lawyers have been taken out of the decision making process, but there is still a blind spot on how procurement works with legal teams, particularly when taking a calculated risk.

  • What do you think we can do as a collective to address issues?

Mark – This is a matter of education, education, education.

  1. Education of the bodies and media around the procurement organisation to give institutions and people a clear indication of what procurement stands for;
  2. Education of the potential talent pipeline, the people we want to bring into the function;
  3. Education of the people procurement already has, how to build on the competency level and what will be required next. Mark suggested that these skills would include relationship management, but also entrepreneurial spirit.

Dapo – Building on Mark’s comments, Dapo said that it was about brand, brand, brand. Addressing this can be helped by using social media, which provides a window into the profession. On social media, the procurement profession needs to create a platform that encourages people to tell the stories about great outcomes, rather than just talking about savings. Procurement has been traditionally poor at doing this, so we need a platform to help.

Chris – Chris highlighted that often procurement people are perceived as, and can be, a bit boring. As Dapo said, the profession needs to be talking about how we are making a broader contribution to the organisation, rather than just about procurement itself.

Gabe Perez – Our final comment came from the audience, and Gabe suggested the profession should draw a line in the sand, and look forward to where we want to go as a profession. People are seeing the value that procurement can offer, why it’s a great profession to work in.

According to Gabe, we should stop looking at what we know, and now look forward to what we are going to do in the future.

The session helped to bring to a close what was a fantastic event, filled with great ideas and thought leadership. However, as was commented on Twitter, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels – we need to put these ideas into practice, address procurement’s blind spots, and collectively drive real change in our organisations.

Don’t Let Procurement Be a Career Cul-de-Sac

The message from our Big Ideas Summit people panel discussion? Please don’t let procurement be a career cul-de-sac!

Career cul-de-sac

People remain one of the hottest, and toughest, topics for Procurement. Covering millennials, attraction and retention, employee value proposition, and Brand Procurement – this panel discussion had it all!

Featuring Lee Gudgeon from Reed Global Tom Derry, CEO, ISM; Lucy Harding, Odgers Berndtson; and Procurious’ 10,000th member, Siddharth Sharma – direct from KPMG India.

Here’s how the discussion unfolded:

Is the “millennial” generation all that different?  If so, what do you think, heads of procurement should be doing differently to attract and retain millennials?

Tom: As the proud father of three millennials, Tom believes the next generation of Procurement talent demand authenticity from their leaders, and are more socially conscious and aware.

“Millennials are looking for opportunities to be employed where their values are engaged, rather than just making a living. As managers, we need to understand that they want to work for companies who’s values they believe in. Patagonia is a company that gets this and has prospered as a result,” suggested Tom.

Lucy: While Lucy agreed millennials have different motivators and different values, she’s suspects that this is more about their stage of life and that we weren’t so different at that age.

Lucy also made the point that sustainability, social responsibility are not just issues for millennials – but that Gen X’s and Boomers want to work for companies they believe in too. Judging by the numerous head-nods around the room, our audience agrees.

Lee: From REED’s vantage point, the main differentiator between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is in the way Millennials want to access information. Rather than a corporate brochure, Millennials want a photo on Instagram or better still, a video of ‘what its like to work in the business”.

“HR needs to get smart about how they communicate Procurement’s value proposition using new technologies,” suggests Lee.

Interestingly, Lee also believes its not just millennials who are demanding great technology at work, but Procurement practitioners at every age and level.

“If procurement practitioners are going to deliver on expectations, they need to be equipped with the best technology – great systems are a huge and often overlooked – employee value proposition.”

Siddharth: Agreed that the issue is less about different values, and more about the avenues that are open to us to express views.

“What was done 20 years ago on paper, is now done on mobile,” said Sid.

Always a topic that ignites some passion, we threw the People discussion over to the audience. Some of our favourite, most controversial take-outs are shared below:

A rising star and our only true millennial in the audience, Mike Murphy O’Reilly, asked: Are we using the wrong word? Rather than millennials, are we really talking about Digital Natives?

For Mike at least, the difference is not so much in terms of values, but in the way we want to receive information and expectations we have of technology.

Anna Del Mar: Suggested that the real problem in attracting and retaining young talent lies with the ‘Frozen Middle’ which despite the energising and inspirational CPOs out there, can be a very unattractive to graduates coming through.

Cutting straight to the core as always, Gabe Perez offered the view that millennials, more than anything, are looking for opportunity. Linking back to his earlier presentation, Gabe warned: “Just like our supplier enablement processes and systems, we need to make sure our HR processes don’t make it more difficult for innovative, exciting talent prospects to get through the door in the first place!”

Tom Derry: Agreeing that a ‘frozen middle’ can exist in any organisation, Tom noted that leaders need to be able to make hard calls and make the necessary change needed to deliver.

Ever one of the most passionate procurement pros we’ve come, Helen MacKenzie asked: Are there enough Good News Stories about Procurement? Procurious loved Helen’s suggestion that perhaps we need a book, a movie, a TV-series about a Procurement Super Hero!

Wanting to know if these procurement issues are unique to procurement, Lance Younger asked: Is every function facing the same challenges as Procurement with respect to talent?

In response, Lucy Harding believes talent remains an issue for every part of the business but a rod we have made for our own backs: “We’ve created silos, and judge people on depth of vertical knowledge – creating narrow but deep skills.”

Adding: “We must challenge the notion that Procurement is a career cul-de-sac,” – a point widely picked up by Twitter.

Speaking on behalf of the professional association, Tom Derry believes that over any other function, Procurement has one unique advantage: We understand the upstream demand, the supplier, the structure of our industry, our market place – so if we capitalise on that and prepare to become GM of the business, or remain functional managers only – to our detriment.

And always delightfully controversial, Peter Smith, SpendMattersUK asked: So why is it still headline news when a CPO becomes CEO?

A good point neatly dealt with by Tom Derry: “That’s true but I believe things are shifting. Today, businesses compete on basis of their supply chains, and so I think we will see more examples of CPOs making the shift to the top job.”